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Costs Are High, But So Are Generation Estimates

October 20, 2010

An article published in the New York Times on October, 8th, 2010, highlights the benchmark findings of a 240 page report by the National Renewable Energy Lab.

The NREL report, titled “Large Scale Offshore Wind Power: Assessment of Opportunities and Barriers“, which came out in September, delivers a well-rounded analysis of the offshore wind market in the United States.

The New York Times article focuses on the costs being a potential show stopper, explaining rather intuitively that shifting economic factors such as commodity pricing, and technological uncertainties that are associated with such new technologies can ultimately affect capital costs. The results are cost estimates that vary as much as generation options our nation can pursue in the upcoming decades.

Project costs from 2007 through 2009 ranged from $2,500 per kilowatt to $5,800 per kilowatt. On average, according to the study, costs have increased 56 percent since the 1991-2006 period of development.”

Despite cost uncertainties, estimates based on NREL’s least-cost optimization model, claim 54GW of added wind capacity can come from offshore wind and generate 20% of U.S. electricity demand. This generation amount would create at least 43,000 permanent, skilled jobs, and create $200 billion in economic activity.

Below is a map from the study documenting gross level potential for offshore wind sites in the U.S. Gross level does not factor in environmental and socioeconomic constraints such as siting restrictions and public concerns. Factor these in, and values can shrink by 60% or more, however, the gross estimates are four times higher than current U.S. electricity demand.

Maine is cited in NREL’s report as facilitating the development of deepwater floating turbines and substructures. For brevity sake, this topic, along with other aspects of the report, will be further explored in later blog entries since it is impossible to cover a report of this length and breadth in one blog entry.

Categories: Developments
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